|Soviet rifle platoon on the march.|
Miraculously, the five men he had had with him near the end of the Winter War were still alive, still with him. A stray captain, one Ivan Filippovich Telitsyn, had led them to safety during the Hell of those last days. As they had gone forward, and not retreated as so many others had, the Party was pleased with Ivan Filippovich, he was now a major and in command of Kazankov's battalion. He had done well for himself and Kazankov's men. Didn't hurt that he was also a Party member.
Krasnoarmeyets² Vitaliy Afanasievich Kolobkov came out of the dugout to Kazankov's left rear, "Comrade Corporal, is there any of that vodka left?"
Kazankov shook his head, "We drank it all last night Vitaliy, the Comrade Commissar is paying us a visit today, wouldn't do to have strong drink around."
"Why? Are they concerned we might drink too much and let the Motherland down?"
"No Vitaliy, I'm concerned that the Comrade Commissar would steal it. Remember Grushanin?"
"The Comrade Major's orderly?"
"The very one, he knows where he can get some more of our national drink."
"My but you're impatient, maybe tonight, maybe tomorrow, I don't know, I just work here."
Kolobkov laughed, then sat on the edge of the trench, looking across the fields as Kazankov had been doing. "Are they out there?"
"The snow fairies ... You know who I mean, the damned Fascists."
"Our glorious Allies? The Germans, is that who you mean?"
Kolobkov laughed again, "Yes, those bastards."
"Ah Vitaliy, my friend and comrade-in-arms, I fear you don't have the right socialist attitude towards our brothers to the west." Kazankov hated the Germans almost as much as Kolobkov, but he enjoyed taunting his friend.
"Bah, you'll be an officer in no time, Ustin Rodionovich."
"And why is that?"
"You're a natural leader ..."
"Why thank you Comrade ..."
"And you're an overbearing asshole." Kolobkov said with a chuckle.
"You are such a bad socialist, I should report you to the Comrade Commissar!"
"You should, it might help us achieve true communism quicker."
Kazankov spat over the lip of the trench, towards German-occupied Poland, "Ha, I might make a good officer, but you would be a natural for Commissar!"
Kolobkov shook his head, "Never happen, I'm not smart enough to keep my mouth shut and parrot whatever the Party says."
"True, very true. Now go wake up the others, morning stand to in fifteen minutes."
"Da Tovarishch Efréĭtor, I serve the Soviet Union!" he barked while throwing Kazankov an exaggerated salute.
Kazankov shook his head, "Be careful Vitaliy, or you could end up in Siberia, counting trees. Or worse."
"Worse than this?" Kolobkov swept his arm around to encompass the bleak vista before them.
"Yes, much worse. Siberia makes Finland seem tropical."
Kolobkov grimaced, then turned on his heel. Looking over his shoulder he said, "In that case, I will behave, I will be a perfect socialist!"
When Kolobkov had disappeared back into the dugout, Kazankov shook his head, "That boy will be the death of me. Him or those Nazis across the way."
It began to rain again. Kazankov swore there was snow mixed in with the rain, he shivered.
It was early November, 1940.
¹ Corporal (Ефрéйтор, Russian)
² Private (Russian, literally "Red Army Man," Красноармеец, Russian)